It appears the 2013 season is shaping up to be a historic one for the Crescenta Valley High football team, as the Falcons extended their season-opening winning streak to three games with a victory over its rival Friday night.
It marked the first time since 2002 CV started a year with three wins, as it toppled nearby La Cañada, 42-14, on the road. The Spartans, who were seeking their first 3-0 start since 2005, fell to 2-1.
While the Falcons relied on their offense in their first two victories, the third was paved by a strong defensive effort in the first half that led to a 28-0 CV advantage at halftime.
Despite the lopsided win, Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling didn’t like what he saw overall.
“Defense did a good job, it was our best game defensively, but I’m not really happy with the game as a whole, we just didn’t play well,” Schilling said. “We constantly say it’s about us but they did some different things than we were used to seeing and we didn’t adjust. We came out with a big win, but I feel like it was kind of one of those games. We were nervous, it just didn’t feel right.”
Still, the Falcons’ halftime lead was more than enough to survive some nerves and a sloppy start to the second half. Two Crescenta Valley blunders set up short fields and easy Spartan scores on one-yard Donnie Breneman runs about five minutes into the second half.
It made it a two-score game, 28-14. It had appeared the Falcons were in complete control at intermission and pulled their starting quarterback Brian Gadsby after he cut his lip.
Without Gadsby, CV was held to a three-and-out on its first drive out of the break and it compounded matters when the ensuing snap went over the punter's head and for an 11-yard loss.
La Cañada took over five yards from the end zone and Breneman scored two plays later. The Spartans' defense set up Breneman's next score two plays later when Todd Murray knocked down an option toss and John Sotoodeh jumped on it at the one-yard line with 6:56 left in the third for the Spartans.
“We come out in the second half, drive the ball on them and stuff it down their throats with our jumbo package, which we should have done earlier in the game,” said La Cañada Coach James Sims, who attempted 11 passes in the first half and threw two picks in the process. “I just didn’t want my players going both ways because we had to cover all that passing.”
Comeback hopes took a shot nine plays and 4:21 later when Jordan Lobianco caught his second touchdown of the game, this time from backup CV signal caller Joe Torres, for 29 yards and a 35-14 lead with 2:31 left in the third.
Torres (six of seven for 134 passing yards) capped the scoring with a one-yard keeper with 5:20 to play. The senior backup filled in nicely for Gadsby, who was six of 14 for 64 yards and a touchdown and added 41 rushing yards and a score on five carries.
“He could have played but we thought at 28-0 there was no reason to play him,” Schilling said of pulling Gadsby at halftime. “We wanted to let the other guys step up and they did, we got some scores in the end.”
It seemed La Cañada got off to a good start when it held CV to a three-and-out on the opening drive of the game.
Almost immediately, things took a sharp turn when a Spartans pass — their first play from a scrimmage — was tipped into the air by defensive end Matt Erickson, intercepted and returned about seven yards for a touchdown by Kevin Hello for a 7-0 Crescenta Valley lead less than two minutes into the game.
It was the first flash of the Falcons’ formidable defense. La Cañada had two turnovers and eight plays that went for negative yards in the game with Hello, who also blocked a punt, providing a sack and another tackle for a loss. Davo Hakoyan had two tackles for a loss, along with Steve Lee. Erickson and Markus Gilliland also had sacks in the win for CV.
La Cañada also had a field goal and punt blocked in the loss, as Crescenta Valley also took advantage of short fields early on, with Jonathan Jun (65 yards on 15 carries) adding a four-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
“A lot of it was special teams,” Sims said of the early struggles. “If you look at the stats our defense played great. Even when it was 28 points, three of those scores were on special teams, the defense had really only given up one touchdown.
“The second half was 14-14, we just blew everything in the first half. I told them to keep their heads up, there’s nothing to be ashamed of; we’ll get it corrected. I am proud of this football team, they came out and they fought so we’ll be good.”